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From Debt to Death

Review by Chris McGarry

On a sultry July 7 evening, theatregoers packed into the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown to laugh their way through the outrageously facetious, slightly dark comedy production From Debt to Death.

In From Debt to Death, which could be described as an insightful though slightly exaggerated commentary on the financial strains suffered by numerous families in these uncertain economic times, we meet Samuel and Edna Newell (played superbly by Ian Bryne and Marisa Boudreault) a young PEI couple living in a tiny home and barely making ends meet. He’s unemployed and she works part-time in a restaurant.

The bills continue to pile until one day the Newells receive a terrifying notice in the mail—their home is about to be foreclosed on.

Always the quick thinker, the ever-optimistic Sam sits down with his sometimes pessimistic wife over coffee and comes up with a plan to raise the money they need by contacting their relatives from around the world.

After a series of uneventful calls to Edna’s cranky German uncle and her aunts in Newfoundland, England and New Jersey and to Sam’s relatives in Italy and Montreal, all of whom for one reason or another cannot lend the couple the badly needed cash, they begin to lose hope.

The next day, while visiting the local funeral parlor owned by Sam’s brother Joey (Paul Hopkins), Sam comes up with a harebrained scheme guaranteed to solve all their financial woes—he will fake his own death to collect the life insurance money.

But while planning one’s own death sounds good in theory, in reality it takes a heck of a lot of intricate planning—not to mention cash, which the Newells don’t have to begin with. While preparing for Sam’s “death,” he and Edna, who reluctantly goes along with the outlandish ploy, must stay one step ahead of an inquisitive life insurance agent (Claudette Anderson).

Through a series of hilarious obstacles (including Sam’s uproarious attempt at building a casket) and surprising plot twists, the play culminates with an unexpected ending that incited a thunderous applause from the audience.

Director Jonah Anderson, who at age 26 is already a veteran of the stage, has created in From Debt to Death an exceptionally unique, intelligent production with just the perfect blend of outrageously zany antics, slightly dark humour but also a strong dramatic element, as the audience cannot help but feel empathetic towards Sam and Edna’s plight.

Mr. Anderson is also to be commended for the play’s superlative dialogue and creating characters who are not merely one-dimensional, but draw the audience into their lives.

Boudreault and Bryne shone as the struggling young couple and Julie Haddow performed her roles as Edna’s aunts—one of whom has ties to the Sicilian mob—with the utmost vigour.

Also to be acclaimed for his multiple roles in the production is Nick Gaudet, whose most memorable characters were Sam’s goofy cousin from Montreal and Vinnie, the mafia guy.

From Debt to Death plays every Sunday at the King’s Playhouse until the end of August.

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